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Richard Willmer arrived at Friars Court as a tenant farmer in 1917. He was a successful hay and straw merchant who, at one time, was one of the main hay suppliers to both Great Western Railways and the collieries in Wales. Richard married Mary Honour of Alvescot in 1918 and over the next ten years had four children: John, Joan, Molly and Ruth.
Richard was a tenant for just three years before buying the house along with 220 acres of land. In the 1940’s John joined his father and between them, buying land from neighbouring farmers, the acreage grew to over 500. On Richard Willmer’s death in 1963 the farm passed to John who continued to build the estate up to its current 650 acres.
In 1964 John married a nurse, Frances and they had three children: Carol (1966 - 1985), Mary (1967 - 1975) and Charles (1970 - ).
John Willmer was a visionary and always had a vested interest in conservation. Since the 1950’s his farming practices were done to help wildlife, long before government schemes were introduced. In the early 1990’s Friars Court was an experimental farm to see if willow trees could be grown as a viable biofuel crop and in 2004 Friars Court had one of the largest photovoltaic systems in the region.
Along with his strong interests in farming, conservation and the community, over the years John Willmer has also been a local Methodist lay preacher for over 60 years, national treasurer of the Home Mission Fund, on the board of the West Oxfordshire Technical College as well as Chairman of the National Farmer’s Union Oxfordshire branch and the local Parish Council. In 1989, in recognition for his work, the Queen honoured him with the Order of the British Empire and later he was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society.
John continued to oversea the running of the farm until he was 93. He passed away in 2014 and Charles now manages the estate.